Philip Larkin – A Coventry Legend Remembered

by Dan Burton

A host of famous figures herald from the city of Coventry. Some of them have made their name in sport, others have become famous in the arts. Next year will mark the 30th anniversary of the death of Philip Larkin, one of Coventry’s (and indeed Britain’s) most loved poets. Having read a collection of Larkin’s poetry by Martin Amis, it is easy to see why Larkin is so well revered.

Nabokov at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

All of Larkin’s poems are descriptive and vivid. He had the uncanny ability to turn even the most mundane or everyday scenes into a beautiful portrait of colour. I found this particularly true in ‘The Beach’ first of all; the reader can very easily put themselves in the scenario that Larkin describes. However, the same can also be said for one of Larkin’s darker poems. In ‘Ambulances’, Larkin painted a picture of a world full of sorrow and pain and how the ambulance symbolises this. This poem is testament to Larkin’s talent; he possessed a gift to turn any object into a glorious poem.

Amis’s collection also highlights some of Larkin’s more famous works. One of these is ‘An Arundel Tomb’ and is a classic example of the literary genius that Larkin had at his disposal. I was left astounded by the way Larkin built up the picture of the monuments and the connotations associated with them. The final line of the poem, ‘what will survive of us is love’, is a powerfully poignant line which carries a very important message to the reader and summarizes the entire poem.

Nabokov at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

As I’ve mentioned above, Philip Larkin was one of Coventry’s most famous poets and was well loved all over the country. Remarkably, the city itself has become famous and specific areas have gained recognition from Larkin’s work. In the poem ‘I Remember, I Remember’, the narrator has returned to his roots in the city and, although it is clear there is animosity between the narrator and Coventry, the former still holds a close bond with his hometown. Areas like Frinton and Stoke feature in the poem ‘Mr Bleany’ and, thanks to the genius of one of Coventry’s most famous sons, they will be forever encapsulated.

Even if you are not a poetry lover, Larkin’s work is definitely a must read. His poems cover a wide range of issues, including war and losing faith as well as providing picturesque descriptions. Larkin even has the ability to turn a tree into a mesmerising portrait of colour and artistry. There is no doubt that Larkin was (and still is) a talented Coventrian and his work has inspired many people in some form or another.

Philip Larkin has given so much to Coventry. His works have ensured that the city will be well known all over the world. With many other famous names having their roots in Coventry, there is hope that many more will follow in their footsteps.

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